Many states differentiate between assault and battery offenses. Ask any good assault charges attorney and they will confirm that under common law, a battery charge involves a harmful or offensive touching of another person. Alternatively, assault involves placing another person in fear of physical harm.
In Minnesota, the law does not make this distinction. There is no such thing as the offense of battery; instead, the statute combines each of these crimes into various degrees of assault.
Understanding how assault charges work is vital if you are facing prosecution. Also vital is your efforts to obtain legal counsel. With the right defense lawyer, you could get a favorable outcome in your case that you desire. Contact the assault charges attorneys of Gerald Miller right away to learn more.
Assault Charges in Minnesota
There are five different assault offenses recognized in Minnesota. The least severe of the group is known as fifth-degree assault. The most serious charge is referred to as first-degree assault. While the penalties for these offenses vary, any criminal conviction could negatively impact your life.
The charge of simple assault is the lowest tier of assault crimes in Minnesota. Under state law, simple assault involves intentional infliction of injury. This statute also covers the attempted infliction of injury. Simple assault also can involve an act intended to cause fear of imminent injury or death. Fifth-degree assault is a misdemeanor under the law.
Fourth-degree assault is also a misdemeanor in Minnesota. However, this charge differs from fifth-degree assault as it is considered a gross misdemeanor. This is an important difference, as a gross misdemeanor conviction could lead to a year in jail and a fine of up to $3,000.
Charges of fourth-degree assault are reserved for offenses against members of certain governmental agencies. Specifically, this charge involves conduct that would qualify as a fifth-degree assault against peace officers, firefighters, and school officers.
The offense of third-degree assault is the lowest-level felony offense on the list. This charge is used when the assault involves either specific protection classes of victims or results in considerable bodily harm.
Third-degree assault is commonly charged when the alleged assault victim is four years old or younger. Alternatively, this charge is appropriate in cases of assault against a minor with a prior history of abuse in their life.
Any person convicted of third-degree assault faces a maximum prison term of five years. Additionally, they could be fined up to $10,000 upon conviction. As a felony, a conviction for this charge also carries steep collateral consequences like the loss of constitutional rights and difficulty finding employment.
A charge of second-degree assault is a serious offense. This offense is reserved for cases when a person uses a potentially deadly weapon during the course of the assault. A deadly weapon is defined not by its type, but how the defendant is accused to have used it.
The penalties for a conviction for second-degree assault vary depending on the facts of the case. Typically, this felony offense will result in up to seven years in prison and a maximum fine of no more than $14,000. However, the maximum penalties increase in cases where an assault leads to substantial bodily harm. In this situation, a conviction will lead to up to 10 years in state prison and a maximum fine of $20,000.
The most serious assault charge is known as first-degree assault. This charge is appropriate in cases where the alleged victim suffers great bodily harm. Great bodily harm is any injury that leads to disfigurement, the loss of use of a body part, the risk of that person’s death. This charge typically results in a maximum 20-year term of imprisonment and a fine of no more than $30,000.
Collateral Consequences for an Assault Conviction
For most people charged with assault, the threat of jail time or fines are at the top of their mind. These statutory penalties are serious, but they represent only some of the consequences that could come with a conviction.
One of the most common collateral consequences that comes with a criminal conviction is the loss of employment opportunities. You could face termination from your current job or have your application rejected for future employment based on nothing more than your criminal record.
A criminal assault conviction could also impact your professional license, if you have one. Doctors, pilots, and lawyers all require special licensing to perform their jobs. The licensing bodies that oversee those licenses typically have the power to suspend or revoke membership based on a criminal conviction. Other common examples of collateral consequences include:
- Social stigma
- Loss of housing opportunities
- Loss of the right to vote
- Loss of firearms rights
- Immigration complications
Remember, collateral consequences occur as the result of an assault conviction. If you are not convicted, you could avoid these consequences entirely. The attorneys of Gerald Miller understand what is at stake when it comes to an assault arrest. We have extensive experience fighting back against these charges, and we are prepared to put that experience to work in your case.
Defenses to an Assault Charge
You have the right to fight back against charges of assault in Minnesota. The specific defense strategy you adopt could play a vital role in determining whether you successfully obtain a fair outcome or not.
One of the most common defenses for an assault charge is self-defense. You have the right to defend yourself from an immediate threat of physical harm, so long as your response is reasonable and measured. You cannot, for instance, use lethal force to address a threat of non-lethal harm. Likewise, you cannot rely on a claim self-defense in response to a threat that is not immediate.
Defense of Others
You have the right to defend another person from harm in the same way you are entitled to defend yourself. This is true no matter what your relationship that individual might be. As is the case with self-defense, your use of force must be reasonable.
Defense of Property
Just like you have the right to defend yourself from imminent harm, you are also entitled to defend your property. If you have a reasonable belief that another person is an imminent threat to your property, you can use reasonable force to stop them without facing a potential assault charge. This force must be reasonable and should end once the threat of damage to your property is over.
Lack of Evidence
There are situations where the best defense is to simply point to the lack of evidence presented by the prosecution. Remember: it is the state’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you assaulted someone. If they cannot do so, you are entitled to an acquittal of the charge against you.
This means there are times when it is best to highlight the deficiencies of the state’s case instead of building an alternate theory. You do not have to prove your innocence or steer the police toward the real culprit. It is enough to show that they failed to prove your guilt.
There are times when the police mistakenly arrest the wrong person for an assault charge. This is particularly common in cases where the assault resulted from a larger fight or argument. If there were multiple people in the vicinity, the police could have mistakenly arrested a party that was not responsible for the assault. Your attorney could make the case that someone else was responsible and that you were mistakenly arrested for the crime.
Discuss Your Assault Charge with Gerald Miller
If you have been accused of assault, it is important to understand that the legal jeopardy you face is real. Even for misdemeanor charges, a conviction could have major impact on the rest of your life. To avoid the hardships that can come with an assault conviction, it could be in your best interest to work with a dedicated defense attorney.
By combining assault and battery charges into one type of offense, Minnesota assault cases can vary greatly in severity. No matter which assault offense you are charged with, it is vital that you take your case seriously. The lawyers at Gerald Miller can help you protect your rights and aggressively pursue a positive outcome in your case. To learn more about your options, call right away at (612) 440-4608 to schedule your free initial consultation with the attorneys of Gerald Miller.
This article was originally published on November 20, 2020 and updated on September 30, 2021.